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Vladimir Putin grilled on his treatment of political opponents by reporter Rachel Scott

Russian President Vladimir Putin faced a barrage of tough questions after his meeting with Joe Biden yesterday. But one reporter stood out.

US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin both faced tough questions at their media conferences after yesterday’s summit in Geneva.

But one questioner stood out.

Rachel Scott, who works for the American ABC News, confronted Putin about his brutal, long-running crackdown on political dissent in Russia.

“The list of your political opponents who are dead, imprisoned or jailed is long,” Scott said.

“(Opposition leader) Alexei Navalny’s organisation calls for free and fair elections (and) an end to corruption, but Russia has outlawed that organisation, calling it extremist, and you have now prevented anyone who supports him to run for office.

“So my question is, what are you so afraid of?”

It wasn’t the only question the Russian President fielded about his record on human rights, but it was easily the bluntest.

Mr Navalny, Putin’s most prominent political opponent, was immediately arrested and imprisoned when he returned to Russia earlier this year, having spent time abroad recovering from being poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent.

RELATED: Putin opponent sent to brutal penal colony

Putin began his answer by labelling his political opponents “foreign agents” and implying they were shills for the United States.

He accused Mr Navalny’s organisation of calling for “mass disorder” across Russia and violence against the authorities.

And he drew a comparison between political dissent in Russia and the protests against police brutality that erupted across the US following the murder of George Floyd last year.

“America, just recently, had very severe events after the killing of an African-American, and an entire movement developed known as Black Lives Matter,” said Putin.

“What we saw was disorder, destruction, violations of the law, et cetera. We feel sympathy for the United States, but we don’t want that to happen on our territory, and we’re doing our utmost in order to not allow it to happen.

“Fear has nothing to do with anything.”

Data shows 6 per cent of the Black Lives Matter protests involved “violence, clashes with police, vandalism, looting, or other destructive activity”. The other 94 per cent of protests were peaceful.

At this point, Putin tried to move on to another question. But Scott demanded the microphone back, and then hit him with a follow-up.

“You didn’t answer my question, sir. If all your political opponents are dead, in prison, poisoned, doesn’t that send a message that you do not want a fair political fight?” the reporter asked.

This time, Putin tried to draw an equivalence between the oppression of his political opponents and the charges laid against Americans who stormed Congress during the Capitol riot on January 6.

He described the US insurrectionists, who were attempting to stop Congress from certifying the result of the 2020 presidential election, as people with “political demands”.

“As for who is killing whom, or throwing whom in jail – people came to the US Congress with political demands. Over 400 people had criminal charges placed on them. They face prison sentences. They are being called domestic terrorists,” said Putin.

“Some people died. One of the people that died was shot on the spot by police, though they were not threatening the police with any weapons. In many countries, the same thing happens that happens in our country.”

The person Putin referred to, Ashli Babbitt, was shot dead by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to force her way through a barricade and enter the Speaker’s Lobby, which is next to the House of Representatives chamber.

To be clear: Mr Navalny and other Russian activists are fighting for fair democratic elections in Russia. The Trump supporters who overran the Capitol in January, believing the former US president’s lies about election fraud, were attempting to overturn the result of a fair democratic election and install the loser as president.

Not the same thing.

At his own press conference, Mr Biden called Putin’s response to Scott “ridiculous”.

“That’s a ridiculous comparison,” Mr Biden said.

“It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through a cordon, go into the Capitol, kill a police officer, and be held accountable. (It’s another) for people to be objecting and marching and saying, ‘You are not allowing me to speak freely.’

“They’re very different criteria.”

The Capitol Police officer Mr Biden mentioned, Brian Sicknick, suffered two strokes and died a day after the riot. Two insurrectionists are accused of assaulting him by spraying him with a chemical irritant.

The medical examiner said the events of January 6 “played a role in his condition”, but ultimately he died of natural causes.

Scott’s line of questioning caught the attention of Russian journalists.

During a live cross on ABC News this morning, host Robin Roberts asked Scott whether there had been any additional response from the Kremlin.

“No response from the Kremlin. They are really just allowing Putin’s words to speak for themselves,” said Scott.

“But I can tell you, after leaving the press conference I was swarmed by a few Russian reporters. They wanted to know (if) I was satisfied by his answer. Clearly there was a lot of interest, and a lot of intrigue about the American presence in the room.”

Asked what she told the Russian reporters, Scott said “no comment”.

“Look, this is our job. Our job is to ask tough questions. We have a responsibility as journalists, no matter who the leader is or what country we are in,” she added.

Read related topics:Joe Biden

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